Rempah: The spice paste that’s the backbone of Malaysian cuisine

Junda Khoo says a excellent rempah recipe is all you want to grasp Malaysian cooking.

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Melissa Woodley

7 Oct 2021 – 10:29 AM  UPDATED YESTERDAY 9:31 AM

Rempah is a multidimensional spice paste that some imagine is the “mom sauce” of Southeast Asian delicacies. The paste, which way spice in Malay, can be utilized to make (virtually) any Malaysian dish.

Rempah’s central elements are purple chilli, garlic and ginger. Historically, belachan (shrimp paste) and lemongrass are incorporated too. Different spices and aromatics would possibly accompany it, relying on which dish it is utilized in. For example, grind in turmeric to make rempah kuning, a not unusual base for ikan goreng (fried fish). Upload candlenuts to make rempah titek, normally utilized in masak titek (papaya soup). Come with galangal and tamarind to make rempah garam assam, a key factor for ikan garam assam (bitter fish curry). 

Rempah is generally ready by way of grinding the elements along side a mortar and pestle. The drive of the pestle releases herbal oils and juices, which provides rempah more potent flavours and aromas. This system is most popular over blitzing and provides the paste a silkier texture.

As soon as shaped, the paste will have to be fried over a gradual warmth to liberate extra of its perfume. Then it is able as a seasoning agent for any vegetable, meat or fish dish. 

“Rempah is used as the foundation of many saucy dishes like rendang or laksa,” explains Junda Khoo, proprietor and chef of Malaysian Ho Jiak eating places in Sydney.

“After the primary elements, you upload the flavor profile that you wish to have to the other dishes. So, say we are making an assam nyonya, we would use the ones major elements then upload bunga kantan (torched ginger flower). If we have been making laksa then we would use the above and upload laksa leaves, or [if we’re making] a rendang, then we’d use the above and upload cinnamon sticks and big name anise.”

Khoo has at all times been interested in the recent aroma and intense flavours of rempah. 

“My amah would make the rempah within the morning that she would then use in her dishes for our circle of relatives dinner,” he says.

“While you prepare dinner rempah, it travels via the entire area and could be very sturdy and I might observe my nostril to the kitchen and notice her sauteing the rempah and simply take a seat there and inhale all of it in.”

“While you prepare dinner rempah, it travels via the entire area and could be very sturdy and I might observe my nostril to the kitchen.”

A few of Khoo’s fondest recollections are of finding out to make rempah along with his amah at age 5. 

“Being so younger, she would at all times get me to do the easy jobs like peeling the onions or bashing the herbs and onions with the mortar and pestle,” he recollects. 

Nowadays, Khoo makes use of this recipe at his eating places, the place it underpins a lot of Ho Jiak’s original Malaysian dishes.

“Rempah in some way is Ho Jiak,” he laughs. “Simply 80 according to cent of our menu is all according to rempah.”

Dishes like laksa, curry rooster, wagyu rendang and stir fries, reminiscent of char koay teow, all rely on rempah.

“I credit score what we’ve got executed with Ho Jiak to amah each unmarried time on account of the fond reminiscence of being woken from the odor of her cooking rempah within the morning, after which making use of it to my occupation,” Khoo concludes.

“It used to be the entire rempah.”

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